Your TV Tech Fix: What You Need To Know About Samsung’s $1000 3DTV

Like all new technologies, time is on the consumers side when it comes to price. As new features are introduced and offered in the “high end” models, the advanced features of yesterday’s model  trickles down in to models lower down the food chain. And sure enough, the prophecy has come to pass. Samsung has just confirmed the PN50C490, which will be the very first 3D capable TV to reach that magic $999 retail price point.

I know it seems like only yesterday the very first 3D capable flat panel TVs hit store shelves, and now… Wait? It pretty much was yesterday. What the heck is going on here?

Samsung’s foray into 3D at a sub $1000 price point this year is an unprecedented move few really saw coming. Compared to other manufacturers of 3D capable flat panel displays, Samsung and Panasonic have been the price leaders by a wide margin, and Samsung’s current plasma TVs are competitive to Panasonic’s.

What does Samsung dropping the bottom out of 3D so fast really mean? Most will make one of two conclusions. It either means their 3D efforts have been super successful, and they believe pushing the 3D price envelope will drive crazy sales this holiday. Or, it means 3D isn’t as successful as they’d like and this is a last ditch attempt to save it.

Personally, I don’t think it’s either. Looking at what the $1000 3DTV is, I’d say it’s something else.

All the details regarding the PN50C490 just hit Samsung’s website. We’re looking at a 720p plasma, 2,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio (which really means nothing), Anynet+ (HDMI CEC) support, 600Hz sub-field motion tech, and the dark blue “Touch of Color” design.

It’s okay if you glazed over most of that, but the really important number to look at is the first one. This is a 720p Plasma set with 3D capability, something I honestly never expected to see at a 50″ size… ever. I assumed there would be at small sizes eventually, but perhaps I’m just the kind of guy who doesn’t see the point of 720p when 1080p sets aren’t much more.

Figured it out yet? With a 720p 3D set at a low price point, they accomplish three things. First, they have a product they can offer as a loss leader to drive interest in 3D.  No doubt they’ll sell quite a few at that price, but most will look at that and want to move up to a 1080p LCD set.  Second, they’ll be able to hold out introducing a lower priced 1080p LCD set for a while longer, perhaps even through next year. Third, they’re really putting the hurt on Panasonic, who may be forced introduce a competitive product, but who doesn’t have a LCD line to really keep their 1080p and 720p offerings separate.

I want to say it’s a win for consumers, and in some ways it is, but coughing up low-res plasma panels at a lower price isn’t that much of a win. Until I get a chance to see what some of the half-res 3D formats looks like at 720p this isn’t even a TV I can recommend buying as a primary set. Of course, if you’re looking for something “cheaper” to enjoy what little 3D programming, movies and games that are available right now, this may just be your ticket.

Satisfy your inner geek while fueling your TV addiction… TV Tech Fix is a column by Matt Whitlock, editor of the Consumer Electronics Community (plus several other gadget-focused community websites), and lover of both technology and TV. In this column, he’ll cover a wide variety of tech topics aimed squarely at the TV addicts of the world – from tips and tricks to help you better your TV experience, to gear recommendations, to the impact technology is having on the TV shows we love.

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